Canada’s province, British Columbia, has announced a two-year ban on admitting international students to tertiary institutions in the province.
Federal Immigration Minister, Marc Miller, said in a CBC report that the measure is part of an effort to reduce new student visa issuances by 35% for the current year.
The decision aims to address “exploitative practices” within the education system.
B.C. Premier David Eby noted the need to rectify issues within the international education system, acknowledging its significant role in the province’s socio-economic framework.
Eby said, “There are a wide array of private institutions, big and small in our province, but regardless of the size of the institution, our expectations of the level of quality are the same.
“There are institutions that are not meeting our expectations right now.”
The B.C. Federation of Students, representing over 170,000 students at universities, colleges, and institutes, welcomed the changes as a positive first step and recognition of long-standing concerns.
The Federation emphasised the urgency of addressing exploitative international recruitment and the dependency of public post-secondary institutions on tuition from foreign students.
Melissa Chirino, the chairperson of the Federation, advocated for protecting international students and giving priority to the concerns of students.
Selina Robinson, the Minister of Post-Secondary Education, presented intentions to set maximum enrollment levels for international students and to improve transparency in the tuition costs for foreign students at public universities.
Robinson also noted the need for diverse student populations to foster integration and understanding of Canadian culture. New standards for institutions will include higher assessment criteria for degree quality, labour-market need for graduates, appropriate resources, and student support. The pause on new institutions will extend until February 2026.
Robinson noted that an examination of the system last March revealed substandard education, a shortage of instructors, and discouragement of students from lodging complaints at certain private institutions.
She recounted an instance where a student from India was misled about the mode of instruction in an institution she applied to.
However, upon arrival, she was enrolled in online classes instead of the promised in-class instruction.
“She arrived here being told that there would be in-class instruction, only to discover on her first day of class as she showed up that the entire course would be taught online,” Robinson said.
“And she couldn’t understand why she spent all that money for an online program.
“We do need to stop the bad actors from misleading these students, and that’s what we’re here to fix.”
Robinson therefore stressed the importance of preventing such misleading practices by unscrupulous actors within the education sector.
“They worry that if they complain, it will risk their student visa, and it will sacrifice all the effort their families have put into making sure they can get a quality education,” she said.
“So, they’re less likely to complain. As a result of hearing that, we’re going to be … developing a system where we’ll be on-site and doing a more proactive evaluation of programmes.”
The province will also establish minimum language proficiency standards at private institutions to ensure international students are adequately prepared. Details on these language requirements will be announced in March.
British Columbia hosts 280 private schools, with 80% located in the Lower Mainland region. Of the 175,000 international post-secondary students from over 150 countries in the province, approximately 54% are enrolled in private institutions.
Robinson stated that the province will increase inspections of schools to ensure compliance with standards, addressing concerns about student exploitation.
The two-year pause will allow the province to assess the impact of recent changes and the federal government’s decision to cap study permits, which have added strain on Canada’s housing market.